How to Become a Better Thinker

We’ve discussed self-mastery and creativity so far. Today we tackle the vast ocean that is “How to be a better thinker.” If you want more content like this, contact me and let me know.

Listen to Joe Rogan spit the truth:

Let’s go.

#1: Use The Trivium

The word Trivium is Latin for “the three ways/roads.” Those roads are Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric in that specific order. It is a fundamental aspect of cogent and critical thinking

Grammar being facts, rules and data. It answers the Who, What, Where, and When of a particular topic.

Logic being as Ayn Rand described it “The art of non-contradictory identification.” It answers the “Why” of a topic.

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Rhetoric being the systematic use of knowledge and understanding. It answers the “How” of a topic.

Studying, applying, and living the Trivium is one of the greatest undertakings a person could do.

It can function similarly to a powerful anti-virus software; ridding the system of viruses (irrational information and false beliefs). It also functions as a “lens cleanser,” helping us to clearly see reality by removing dirt and grime from our minds and senses. This is a much larger topic can I can cover in this post, but I HIGHLY recommend you dive deeply into it by checking out Trivium Education.

Living values and principles that you formed using the Trivium makes for a powerful and effective thinker. And we haven’t even added nootropics to the mix.

An example of living and using the Trivium

The other day at Danger & Play a great question was asked. The featured comment said to align yourself with and practice truth, love, and power. This answer was most accurate.

I bet Steve Pavlina had to think hard to distill those value/principles.

Logic comes from a pursuit of and alliance with, truth. You could argue that love is being “truthfully seen” by those you most care for as Nathaniel Branden would say. Power is better wielded by those who align themselves with truth and love, otherwise it corrupts the wielder.

How Thinking Better Helps You Master Skills (and Yourself)

Grammar and Logic allow for deconstruction (analysis). Deconstruction of skill, thought patterns, habits, beliefs, etc. The wisdom of using all those deconstructed things, knowing yourself, and being able to express those things and pass that knowledge on to others? Rhetoric.

For example, want to learn a skill faster? T Ferriss during the interview said start by asking yourself:

  1. “What rules are people following that are not required [outside of legal and physics laws]?”
  2. “Who’s good at [X] that shouldn’t be?”

Then deconstruct and study that person for faster skill acquisition. How are they possibly approaching the skill wrong? Did you ask them? What cognitive biases and false beliefs do they have about the skill?

He also mentioned using #2 and #3 below to analyze the behaviors (and thoughts if you can interview them) of people who’ve mastered a skill you would like to master.

Ask the right questions and you shave time off of traveling the long road to mastery.

#2: Ask Yourself the Right Questions

Who, what, when, where, why and how = data necessary to make sound decisions. Sound thoughts become sound decisions become sound actions. This is how asking the right questions lead to success.

Let’s say you have some problem you want a solution to. Instead of complaining or feeling dejected how fast can you ask yourself questions like:

  • How can I turn this into an opportunity?
  • What CAN I do now?
  • How do I do that most effective and efficiently?
  • Is action or inaction best for this situation?
  • Will that action or inaction allow me to thrive long-term?

Shifting your mindset can sometimes be as easy as asking the right questions.

Scared? Ask questions that shift your mindset from avoidance to engagement. Answering and asking yourself the right questions lead to clarity. Clarity allows you to take decisive actions often bestow courage.

Unsure how to solve a problem? First gain clarity:

  • What do I know about this problem?
  • What can I infer from that knowledge/data?
  • Was there another problem I solved in the past that could help me solve this one?
  • How did I solve that one?
  • Did that way (thoughts, behaviors, etc) work effectively?

Questions for Changing Beliefs

Use questions to find your limiting beliefs:

  • What cognitive biases do I often use?
  • When do I tend to use those?
  • What behavior and thought patterns haven’t gotten me the results I’ve wanted?
  • What have I deemed true about myself that I haven’t truly and deeply questioned?

Use questions to change those things (1-4 via Byron Katie)

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought?
  4. Who would I be without the thought?

Additional questions for belief changes:

  • If I didn’t have this belief any more, would it still be a fact?
  • If it’s a fact, can I prove it using proof outside my own experiences?
  • If it’s not a fact in reality, then it’s just in my head right?
  • Is there an alternative interpretation to my belief that could be true?
  • Are there any better interpretations to explain things?

See how ration cuts through bullshit?

If it’s just an idea in our heads, there is probably more powerful and positive beliefs we can replace the old one with. It’s important to go out and find experience which strengthen and meld with this new belief you’ve formed.

Use Logic to cleanse your emotions. No need to run from feeling something right? Use some “Logical jiu-jitsu” to make the emotions tap out. Feel them fully and know that with the Trivium as your sword, shield, and jiu-jitsu your emotions’ power over you is greatly diminished.

No I’m not perfect at any of this, I’m just passing along knowledge my man.

#3: Study Cognitive Biases

First, let’s take a look at Wikipedia’s definition of a cognitive bias:

A cognitive bias is a pattern of deviation in judgment, whereby inferences about other people and situations may be drawn in an illogical fashion. Individuals create their own “subjective social reality” from their perception of the input. An individual’s construction of social reality, not the objective input, may dictate their behaviour in the social world. Thus, cognitive biases may sometimes lead to perceptual distortion, inaccurate judgment, illogical interpretation, or what is broadly called irrationality.

So cognitive biases are a form of contradictory thinking. They obscure seeing things objectively in reality. This can lead to fear, stress, and all those other emotions most people don’t enjoy. Allowing cognitive biases to rule your mind or be your default mode of thinking results in actions and behaviors that are the fruit of illogical thoughts. Illogical thoughts can lead to illogical actions more often than not.

Waitzkin described cognitive biases as

“An addiction to a past evaluation as opposed to a present one.”

He said that being in the present moment is an effective way to overcome them.

To leverage cognitive biases, study the list in the resources. When you notice yourself using them, apply logic (asking the questions above) to see that bias clearly, giving yourself at least one more thought/belief to choose.

Simply noticing the biases you think and act on most frequently is of value. This allows you to become more conscious of faulty thinking and you can’t help but recognize that there are alternate ways of doing things. Ways that may be more powerful, useful, and don’t weaken you.


Be grateful for your cognitive biases, lest your logic and reasoning become dull.

This quote shifted made my thinking more accurate when it came to problem-solving. I hope it does the same for you:

“Spend less time trying to amass all the information and more time better defining the problem so you can get the right information. Focusing on finding good problems vs just finding solutions produces better end results.”


Right information (Grammar) → right processing and identification (Logic) → Right thoughts, right actions, and right application of both (Rhetoric)

Resources (A great site with simple explanations and examples. Start here)

Coming up in part 4:

  • The 4 key habits for mastery Josh recommends all people internalize
  • The importance of being able to “turn off” just as intensely as you’re able to “turn on”
  • Other parts of the series:
    Part 1: The Art of Self-Mastery
    Part 2: Hemingway’s Secret to Maintaining “Creative Power Momentum”
    Part 3: [You are here]
    Part 4: The 4 Key Habits for Mastery Josh Waitzkin Recommends Everyone Internalize